Novelization can be defined as the writing of a matching novel following the release of a feature film or other new media vehicle, such as video games. Just like film adaptions, novelizations may choose to either be faithful to their source or take great liberties with their literary adaptation. Instead of being based entirely on the actual film and its settings, however, the novels tend to be based on the screen play. Novelizations have grown in popularity over the years and have become a staple of movies that garner a “cult” following. Because of their popularity their profitability is high and this makes them a valuable tool for studios seeking to expand their marketing and ensure continuous profits from their film.(Profit Book)

According to an article by Deborah Allison (Allison Article) “Novelisations have existed almost as long as movies have and can be found as far back as the 1920s, although it was not until the advent of mass-market paperbacks that they truly came into their own.” She mentions that the sixties and seventies were boom years for novelizations and they provided film lovers with a way to re-experience their favorite movies once they were no longer in theaters. Of course, this was a time in which movies were not available for home and could only be enjoyed at the movie theater. This created a market for novelizations because it was the only way that the film could be re-experienced. Even though movies can now be watched at home, they continue to be popular and can be purchased online and at any bookstore.


One of the often contentious issues with film adaptations of novels is the controversy of translating text into images. Many in the literary world believe that film canno portray some of the most important parts of the literary narrative such as ambiguity, complexity, and characters with depth, and other things, accurately. Novelizations fit into this debate because some see them as a way of filling in the gaps that film leaves behind. This view is expressed by Jan Baetens in his article about Novelizations. He writes that “it could be said that the rise of novelization is one of the ways in which a previously dominated system (that of writing) manages to counterattack, to appropriate the tools of the dominant system (that of the image) and to aim them against it; the text writes back” (44.). Just as Baetens says, creating a novel from the film is a way of pointing out the deficiencies in film and it brings attention back to the written medium.
Sometimes it can further develop an already popular narrative. Linda Hutcheon provides a great example of this in her book A Theory of Adaptation. Hutcheon explains that the novelization of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey “explains plot and motivation elements that remain ambiguous in the film… the author actually allows us into the
onsciousness of the computer Hal” (119). This very successful example of novelization reminds readers and viewers of the movie alike of what is sacrificed when adapting a story into film. Adapting a movie into a novel allows writers to put back some of the elements of storytelling that do not fit well into a movie and thus were taken out. Novelization helps to satiate newly created “fans” of the story, or narrative, by providing them with the dimension they are aware exists but cannot seek inside of the film.


Novelizations are frequently associated with fandom and fan-fiction. This is due to the fact that these novels are often created long after the films they are based on because of the popularity of said film. Novelizations can be used as a measure of popularity with many types of media, not only films. The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran an article about Novelizations of video games and their fan base. Another media category with countless novelizations is television shows. This particular type of novelization is among the most popular. Some of the most popular novelizations include those of shows “Dr. Who” and “Lost.”Buffy_the_Vampire_Slayer.jpg

Another type of pseudo-novelization is the world of Fan-Fiction. Fan-fiction is the creation of narratives featuring popular characters from films and television shows. Film franchises such as Harry Potter and Star Wars have entire websites and other venues replete with the characters and settings in original stories written by their fans. Fan participation through writing has even been significant enough to influence the shows/movies that they seek to emulate. One such example was the popular show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Two episodes ("The Wish" and "Doppelgangland”) were written in direct response to online fan-fiction. Josh Stenger writes about this in his article and notes that “Series creator Joss Whedon and other members of the Mutant Enemy production company often participated in online discussion boards, especially the ‘official’ board known as The Bronze” (35). On several occasions the series' writers responded to fan suggestions and incorporated them into stand-alone episodes. This is definitely a unique instance of a visual media influencing a written narrative which then influences the visual media right back.


Tom Hudleston of Time Out London opens an article (Hudleston Article) about novelizations by referring to them as “bastards” and a “widely disparaged art form.” Descriptions like this are very common in the academic world because Novelizations are often seen as commercial ploys or hastily written screen-play expansions. They Angry_Croc.jpgare so unpopular in the writing community that Mil Gilden, a writer, has an entire web article defending the craft despite acknowledging that most writers consider it “the scum of literature.” (Gilden Article) Part of this reputation comes from the speed in which these novels must be written. A lot of studios decide to have a novelization coincide with the release of the film and if a movie is moved up, so is the deadline for the novelization. Another aspect of these books contributing to the disdain from the literary world is that they are not seen as organic. They are commissioned by major movie studios and have to be written as another form of the screen play. They are not original ideas, the author is paid up front, and most novelizations are about popular, commercialized films with little substance. These reasons may be responsible for some believing that these novels are the scourge of the writing world. Hudleston later notes in his article that “Perhaps it’s sheer critical snobbery that prevents them from gaining wider acceptance, but the fact remains: in almost a century of novelisations, some written by relatively well-regarded authors, not one has managed to break out of its geek ghetto.”

Indeed he is correct. These books continue to be popular despite their reputation in literary circles.


websites linked above

Baetens, Jan. “Novelization, a Contaminated Genre?” Critical Inquiry 32.1(2005): 43-60.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

Stenger, Josh. “The Clothes Makes the Fan: Fashion and Online Fandom When ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
Goes to eBay.” Cinema Journal 45.4 (2006): 26-44. Print.